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Google Earth Tours of Glacier Change

Mauri Pelto, SERC - On the Cutting Edge Collection

A detailed Google Earth tour of glacier change over the last 50 years introduces this topic in an engaging way. Students are then asked to select from a group of glaciers and create their own Google Earth tour exploring key characteristics and visible changes in that glacier.

Activity takes a minimum of one class period plus some independent work time. Computer access highly recommended.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 1 Performance Expectation, 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 4 Cross Cutting Concepts, 3 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Global warming and especially arctic warming is recorded in natural geological and historic records
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4e
Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b
Effects of climate change on water cycle and freshwater availability
About Teaching Principle 7
Other materials addressing 7b

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
Other materials addressing:
A) Processes that shape the Earth.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:B) Places
Other materials addressing:
B) Places.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • If students look at the two glacier tours on their own, they would need a worksheet or other guidance to keep them on track.
  • Educator will have to provide assessment questions.

About the Science

  • Combines Google Earth imagery, photographs, topographic overlays and data from glaciers and landforms in a lab activity. Powerful way of using Google Earth.
  • Uses many lines of evidence to build an understanding for the effects of climate change on glaciers.
  • The Google Earth tours are loaded with quality information and present data is in several different formats.
  • These glaciers may have undergone additional changes since this activity was created, so it may be worth investigating additional sources of imagery or data. The USGS has a repeat photography program in Alaska and Montana to observe changes in glaciers.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The activity provides the students a feel of changes occurring on glaciers due to climate change over the past 50 years. Studying and learning become more effective when you actually start feeling it and sensing it. This is what this activity lends.

About the Pedagogy

  • First part of the activity is passive as students watch the Google Earth tour. But the second part of the activity is active and students create their own glacier tour in Google Earth.
  • Students must already be facile Google Earth users as is stated in the activity; this activity would overwhelm new users.
  • Activity can be done independently or guided by educator.
  • The glacier tours can be used as a standalone presentation for students who are not ready to dive into Google Earth.
  • Activity can be done without computer lab based on link in supporting materials.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The .kmz files create a very thorough presentation.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

High School

Performance Expectations: 1

HS-ESS3-5: Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

HS-ESS2.A3:The geological record shows that changes to global and regional climate can be caused by interactions among changes in the sun’s energy output or Earth’s orbit, tectonic events, ocean circulation, volcanic activity, glaciers, vegetation, and human activities. These changes can occur on a variety of time scales from sudden (e.g., volcanic ash clouds) to intermediate (ice ages) to very long-term tectonic cycles.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 4

Patterns, Cause and effect, Structure and Function, Stability and Change

HS-C1.5:Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns.

HS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system.

HS-C6.2:The functions and properties of natural and designed objects and systems can be inferred from their overall structure, the way their components are shaped and used, and the molecular substructures of its various materials.

HS-C7.1:Much of science deals with constructing explanations of how things change and how they remain stable.

Science and Engineering Practices: 3

Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

HS-P8.2:Compare, integrate and evaluate sources of information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words in order to address a scientific question or solve a problem.

HS-P8.3:Gather, read, and evaluate scientific and/or technical information from multiple authoritative sources, assessing the evidence and usefulness of each source.

HS-P8.5:Communicate scientific and/or technical information or ideas (e.g. about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (i.e., orally, graphically, textually, mathematically).

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